A new report examines stress levels in the U.S. over a 26-year period and examines whether psychological stress is associated with gender, age, education, income, employment status, or race and ethnicity.

The research from Carnegie Mellon University‘s Sheldon Cohen and Denise Janicki-Deverts used telephone survey data from 1983 that polled 2,387 U.S. residents over the age of 18 and online surveys from 2006 and 2009 that polled 2,000 American adults each, according to a press release. All three surveys used the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), a measure created by Cohen to assess the degree to which situations in life are perceived as stressful.

Published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the results show that women, individuals with lower income and those with less education reported more stress in all three surveys. They also show that as Americans age, they experience less stress and that retirees consistently report low levels of stress, indicating that retirement is not experienced as an adverse event. The results also indicate the recent economic downturn mostly affected white, middle-aged men with college educations and full-time jobs.

The results also showed between a 10- and 30-percent increase in stress in all the demographic categories over the 26 years between 1983 and 2009; however, Cohen cautions against drawing the conclusion that Americans are more stressed today.

“It’s hard to say if people are more stressed now than before, because the first survey was conducted by phone and the last two were done online,” Cohen said. “But it’s clear that stress is still very much present in Americans’ lives, putting them at greater risk for many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders.”

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